Today I had the cupcake that was just plain over the top. I ate it before my 1:00 meeting and was still a little jittery 90 minutes later when I started this posting. It was The Cookie Monster, a vanilla cupcake filled with chocolate chip cookie dough and topped with blue icing and a couple of mini cookies (see photo below). It sounded ingenious. It was sweet. It was too sweet. I ate the whole thing anyway. It was sweet to the point of no longer being enjoyable by the time I got to the last bite. I regretted it immediately. I am still buzzed. I am impressed. At this point, I am dreading the inevitable crash. If there is no crash, Iced Gems will have truly achieved confection perfection, and they will become a permanent fixture in my Friday routine.
Oh, and there was also lunch before that.
We who work in the city have been blessed with an increasing number of mobile food vendors. This is especially nice in the Harbor East district. Sandwiched between Baltimore's two prime tourist spots - historic Fells Point and the re-gentrified Inner Harbor (courtesy of William Donald Schaefer RIP)- we are faced with an over saturated restaurant market that provides very few places that you actually want to eat. I've heard rumors that the Baltimore City government recently made it easier to get a license for a mobile food truck but have been unable to confirm. Regardless of the reason, more of them are appearing thoughout the city. I am grateful as every Friday finds a new food cart within a few blocks of my office.
Today I found GrrChe the gourmet grilled cheese truck. The menu features standard grilled cheese - American, cheddar, Monterrey Jack and brie (no kidding - brie) on your choice of white or wheat. They also serve the best side dish ever to go with the grilled cheese - tomato soup. They wisely make this their lunch special.
In addition, they offer some high-end variations on the grilled cheese, including The Lobster Grille - lobster, brie and cheddar served open face, The Middle Eastern - Armenian cheese, olive oil and mint (of all things) on a pita, and one who has already earned a reputation in my office, The Grilled Mac and Cheese. Here's the link to their full menu. It's also posted on the side of the truck.
Feeling a bit worn out from a week punctuated with rapid-fire bursts of stress, I went for classic comfort and got the special with cheddar and a tomato. Each sandwich is made to order and cooked on a grill inside the truck in about the same amount of time you would take to cook it yourself - about 7 minutes. This is reassuring in a time when so much food tastes like it was prepared in advance and simply reheated in a microwave. The sandwich is cut in half on the diagonal and wrapped neatly in foil like your mother would do. It also comes with one of those food service pickles that I always find a little sad and immediately cast aside.
The bread was grilled to a light golden brown and was lightly buttered but not greasy. The cheddar was melted thoroughly and evenly, and the tomato was warm but not wilted. In other words - it was perfect. The bread had a good texture similar to Texas toast and supported the sandwich well. This is an important factor given the double-whammy of oil from melted cheese and butter. The bread held up and retained its flavor. Though billed as sharp cheddar, the cheese was not what I would call sharp. This only means that it was not Wisconsin aged-for-seven-years sharp. It was still far from bland and was complemented by the subtle fruity sweetness of the tomato slice just the way it is supposed to be.
The soup was like tomato plus. The broth was smooth and creamy with chunks of several varieties of tomatoes (some that appeared to be heirlooms), plus what looked to be tiny pieces of carrot and zucchini. It had a rich, earthy, herby flavor more reminiscent of mushroom soup that tomato soup, and I wondered if it was actually in a meat stock. Definitely more robust than most tomato soups, it accented the simple perfection of the grilled cheese when I dunked my sandwich in.
This was without a doubt the best version of grilled cheese and tomato soup I have ever had. Coming in at $7.50, it was also the deal of the day.
It is now approaching 5:00 - a full four hours later - and the sugar buzz has receded with no signs of a crash. Proving that made from scratch really is better for you, Iced Gems now has a customer for life.
Grilled Cheese Perfection